afganistan defined in 1939 year

afganistan - Afganistan;
afganistan - Afghanistan the gateway to India. By Evans Lewin, Librarian, Royal Empire Society.

A succinct description of this country and its turbulent history. Other information will be found under the headings Amanullah; Herat; Kabul; Kandahar; Khyber Pass; North-West Frontier; Penjdeh; United Nations, etc.

Afghanistan is a country lying N. W. of India and forming a buffer state between Russia and the Indian Empire. It is bounded W. by Persia, N by territory of the Turkmen, Uzbek, and Tadzhik Soviets, E. by India, and S. by the Indian prov. of Baluchistan. Its length from the Persian frontier to the Khyber Pass is about 600 m., extreme breadth N. to S. about 500 m., estimated area 250, 000 sq. m.

Afghanistan proper embraces the country between the rivers Oxus and Indus. Although the North-West Frontier Province of India is mainly inhabited by Afghans, it was conquered by the Sikhs and is part of British territory, while other states, such as Chitral, and certain tribal territories, form semi-independent communities between political Afghanistan and India. The northern frontier was arranged in accordance with the decisions of the Russo-Afghan Boundary Commission of 1884-88. The boundary runs N. E. from Zulfikar to the Amu Daria or Oxus, and is mainly of an artificial character, protected by fortresses. From Khamiab the Amu Daria forms the frontier, which continues along the river Panjah into the Pamirs. Passing through a mountainous snow-covered region, it ends on the borders of China near one of the breaks in the Sarikol range. Bending sharply S. and thence W., the boundary runs roughly parallel with the Panjah river for a distance of about 50 m. and encloses a strip of territory known as Wakhan, dividing the Pamirs from Chitral. From this point S. the frontier is purely strategic.

Scientific Frontier

After the Afghan War of 1878 the scientific frontier, so termed by Lord Beaconsfield, was established so that the ameer's dominions should not include the semi-independent Pathan tribes in the hills N. W. of India. In 1893 a delimitation was agreed upon. Caitral, Bajaur, Swat, and Waziristan were recognized as within the British sphere of influence, while Kafiristan continued under Afghan control. The frontiers S. W. from the Khyber Pass are mainly determined by tribal and geographical considerations until a point S. W. of Quetta is reached. Here the boundary strikes due W., crosses the Helmund desert, and reaches Persia at the Koh-i-Malik-Siah, from. which mountain it runs approximately due N. and is mostly undefined.

Afghanistan is mainly mountainous, broken by deep ravines and fertile valleys. From the N. E. it is crossed by the lofty ranges of the Hindu Kush, the W. continuation of the Himalayan system, striking off from the Pamir plateaux. Here some of the peaks reach 24, 000 ft. in height. The Hindu Kush, with its W. continuation, forms the backbone of Afghanistan and divides Afghan Turkistan in the N. from the Helmund desert regions in the S. Of the mountain passes, upwards of twenty in number, the Kushan Pass in the Hindu Kush is 14, 350 ft. up, and few of them are below 12, 000 ft. Numerous rivers rise in these ranges or enter the country from the N. They include the Amu Daria; the Murghab, which rises in the Firuz Koh and runs N. through the city of Merv; the Helmand, rising in the Hindu Kush and flowing 680 m. S. W. into Lake Hamun; the Hari Rud, rising in the Hindu Kush and flowing 500 m. W. into Persia; and the Kabul, which flows into the Indus at Attook. There are numerous small lakes, the most important being the Ab-i-Stada in Ghilzai.

industries and communications

Generally healthy and dry, the climate is marked by extreme variations of temperature. For example, whereas at Kabul and in the N. the winter is severe, at Jalalabad it is almost as mild as in India. In all parts the heat is great during summer. In the S. and E. districts there are two harvests. The spring crop consists of wheat, barley, and lentils; and the autumn harvest produces rice, millet, sorghum, tobacco, beet, and maize. All European fruits, especially grapes, are grown, and an extensive trade is carried on in these products. In the warmer districts, sugar-cane and cotton are grown. Copper, iron, and gold are worked. Silver was at one time plentiful. Gypsum exists near Kandahar. Of manufactured articles, silk and carpets are the chief. Herat is a well-known depot for the carpets of Central Asia. Reliable trade statistics are not available, but the total trade, including both imports and exports, has been valued at £5, 850, 000. The annual trade with India is valued at £4, 750, 000, the imports exceeding the exports. Cotton goods, indigo, tea, and sugar are the chief articles of import, and the wool and skins of the fat-tailed sheep, cattle, horses, timber, fruit, silk, and drugs the principal exports.

Besides sheep, cattle, and horses, the domestic animals include camels, goats, and dogs.

The lines of communication are through the valleys and across the mountain passes. The most important of all the frontier routes are those connecting the Amu Daria regions and the high-lauds of Central Asia with Kabul, and those leading from Kabul to the plains of India. From Russia to Herat there are four distinct lines of advance: from the Caspian by the route through Meshed: from Chikishliar, on the Caspian, to Merv; from Tashkent; and through Balk in Afghan Turkistan. Herat and Dehdadi, near Balk, form the strategic keys to N. Afghanistan.

Four Roads to India

Connecting with India there are four principal lines of communication: from Peshawar through the Khyber Pass leading to Jalalabad and Kabul; from Bannu over the Peiwar Pass to Kabul; through the Gomal Passes to Ghazni; and from Quetta through the Bolan Pass to Kandahar. The latter is one of the world's great strategical positions, and is connected with the Indian railway system. A line has been carried through the Khwaja Amran range to the Afghan borders at New Chaman, where it opens on the route to Kandahar. Farther E. the Indian rlys. run to Jamrud at the entrance of the Khyber Pass.

population and government

Afghanistan, with a population estimated at 7;000, 000, is inhabited by a variety of nationalities, generally spoken of as Afghans, though properly only the Durani, one of the two dominant tribes, are Afghans. The other principal races are the Ghilzai, Hazaras, Tadzhiks, Uzbeks, Ajmaks, and the Kafirs of the Hindu Kush. The languages are Persian, spoken by a large part of the non-Afghans, and Pushtu. Their religion is Mahomedan, largely of the Sunni sect, and next to the Ottoman Empire Afghanistan is the most powerful Moslem state. Such education as exists is supplied by the village mullah or priest.

The Afghans as a rule form small village communities, but there are certain towns noted in history, or of importance as strategic points. The principal are Kabul, the capital, 6, 396 ft. above sea level, in the E.; Herat, the chief town in the W.; Kandahar, the chief city in the S.; and Ghazni, Jalalabad, Kunduz, Balkh, Maimana, Tash Kurgan, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Faizabad.

Afghanistan is now a constitutional monarchy, with a parliament consisting of a senate (45 members nominated by the king) and a national assembly, (109 elected members). The old title of ameer was discarded in favour of that of king in 1926. The nobles or chiefs are of three kinds: sirdars, khans, and mullahs. The sirdars are the hereditary nobility: the khans are the chosen representatives of the people; the mullahs are the Mahomedan priests and teachers. The revenue of the country is subject to marked fluctuations, and averages £4, 600, 000 per annum. The permanent army is stated to number about 90, 000 men, but the force can be indefinitely expanded. The chief military strength of the country is its rugged and inhospitable nature, the absence of railways, or even good roads, and the strategic importance of the mountain passes, together with the fact that the warlike clansmen are armed with modern rifles.

Afghanistan is divided into five major provinces: Kabul, Mazar, Kandahar, Herat, and Kataghan-Badakhshan, and four minor provinces. Each is under a governor termed Naib or Habim. The governor of each province is responsible to the king, and the provinces are subdivided into districts under the control of nobles and judges.


The Afghans of the Durani clan claim to be the Ben-i-Israel and descendants of the tribes carried out of Palestine into Media. Their language, however, does not support this claim. Before the Mahomedan invasions, Afghanistan was the centre of powerful Buddhist kingdoms. In the time of Darius Hystaspes, 515 b. c., it was included in the Achaemenian satrapies. Alexander the Great, in 329 b. c., crossed the mountains of the Paro-pamisus (Hindu Kush) and marched into Bactria, and in 327 b. c. he crossed the Indus, near the modern Attock, and invaded India. Many remains of Hellenic civilization are to be found in N. Afghanistan and in the N. W. parts of India.

From the end of the 10th century, Afghanistan formed the principal highway of the Moslem invasion of India. The Hindu princes who had established themselves at Kabul were forced to abandon the country. In 977, Subuktijin the Turk conquered it, and established himself at Ghazni. His son, the famous Mahmud of Ghazni, invaded India, and conquered Lahore and Delhi. The hordes of Geughiz Khan, about 1220, and those of Timur, in 1398, overran Afghanistan and displaced the native dynasties. Baber, the Mogul emperor sixth in descent from Timur, is buried at Kabul. With the decline of the power of the Mogul court at Delhi, Afghanistan fell under the sway of the Shah of Persia.

The modern history of the country dates from about 1747, when Ahmad Khan, a general of the Saddezai family, seized Kandahar. With the extension of Russian power in Central Asia, and the growth of British influence in N. W. India, the position of Afghanistan became of great strategic importance. The ameers intrigued with the Russian and Indian governments, and in 1839, Dost Mahomed having entered into negotiations with Russia, Afghanistan was invaded by a large British force, and the ameer was sent as a prisoner to India. Thenceforward the relations of Afghanistan with India were dominated by one main consideration - the position of the country in view of a possible Russian invasion of India.

The British occupation of Kabul led to an insurrection in 1841, when Sir Alexander Burnes and his suite were assassinated. In the following January the British army retreated from Kabul, and was completely annihilated with the exception of one survivor. Two British forces went to avenge the massacres, and Kabul was captured on Sept. 16, 1842.

Dost Mahomed, again called to rule the Afghans, proved a valuable British ally during the Indian Mutiny. He died in 1863, appointing Shere Ali, his third son, as successor. In 1878, Shere Ali having intrigued with Russia and declined to receive a British mission, a British force invaded Afghanistan. (See Afghan Wars. )

Shere Ali retired to Balkh, and died at Mazar-i-Sharif in Feb., 1879. By the treaty of Gandamak (May, 1879), it was agreed that Shere Ali's son, Yakub Khan, should be recognized as ameer, and that a British representative should reside at Kabul; and the extension of the British frontier by the occupation of the Khyber Pass and the Kurram and Pishin valleys was secured. Sir Louis Cavagnari proceeded as British resident to Kabul, where on Sept; 3, 1879, he and his companions were assassinated.

The ameer, Yakub Khan, was forced to abdicate, and in July, 1880, Abd-ur-Rahman Khan, grandson of Dost Mahomed, was recognized as ameer. In the mean time, Ayub Khan, a brother of the late ameer, marched upon Kandahar, and on July 27, 1880, the battle of Maiwand (g. v. ) occurred. Eventually, Ayub Khan, totally defeated, fled to Persia on Oct. 4, 1881, leaving Abd-ur-Rahman as the sole ruler of Afghanistan. Abdur-Rahman reigned until Oct. 1, 1901, when he was succeeded by his son Habibullah Khan. In the Anglo-Russian Treaty of 1907 Great Britain undertook not to annex Afghanistan and the Russian government declared the country to be beyond the sphere of Russian influence.

In 1915 the German government sent a mission to Afghanistan to incite the ameer to assist in liberating India. The ameer firmly refused the inducements held out to him to forsake his British ally. He was assassinated on Feb. 20, 1919, and the throne was seized by his brother, although the rightful heir was the eldest son of the former ameer. Even after the accession of Amanullah, third son of. Habibullah, the country remained unsettled, and in May armed bodies of Afghans crossed the Indian frontier (see Afghan Wars). In 1929, Amanullah, whose western ideas were repugnant to his countrymen, abdicated in favour of his brother, Inayatullah Khan, who, however, was forced to abdicate. Habibullah, a brigand chieftain, seized the throne, but was subsequently defeated and executed by Nadir Khan, who became king. The latter was assassinated in 1933, when Mahomed Zahir Shah (b. 1914} succeeded his father Nadir.

Bibliography. History of Afghanistan, G. B. Malleson, 1878; Asiatic Neighbours, S. S. Thorburn, 1894; At the Court of the Amir, J. A. Gray, 1895; Forty-one Years in India, Lord Roberts, 1S98; Afghanistan, A. Hamilton, 1906; Under the Absolute Amir, F. A. Martin, 1907; Afghanistan, the Buffer State, J. G. Lyons, 1910; The Kingdom of Afghanistan, G. P. Tate, 1911; History of Afghanistan, Sir Percy Sykes, 1940.

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